Tag Archives: Sci-fi

Alita: Battle Angel

Alita: Battle Angel (2019)

I knew I wouldn’t get on well with this. The trailer failed to get my juices flowing and I didn’t think I’d be able to get past the CGI’d central character, Alita (Rosa Salazar). In fact, Alita was the least distracting thing about the film and I have healthy respect for the way she’s animated.

Glynn really wanted to see and enjoy this, so with no expectation (on my part), we took Date Night to the Odeon. While this film wasn’t my favourite – and actually made me scoff a few times because it was so awkward – I enjoyed some of the spectacle. Everything is CGI’d to the hilt and it’s an impressive world built from scratch.

The year is 2563 and a world war know as “The Fall” has left the Earth devastated. We find ourselves in Iron City which is nothing more really than a massive junk yard. Times are tough here and it’s made all the more difficult by the looming sky city of Zalem, which is placed directly over Iron City.

The poor (fiscally and physically) residents of IC are overshadowed by the obscene wealth of Zalem every day of their lives. Some long to beg, steal or borrow their way up there by any means necessary. One day, cyborg scientist Dr. Dyson (Christoph Waltz) is scavenging an actual junk yard when he finds the healthy head and brain of a female cyborg. He brings her home, gives her a body and a heart – and names her “Alita”.

Alita quickly adapts to her new life but she has little recollection of where she came from. For all intents and purposes, she’s just a normal teenage girl who happens to be a cyborg. When she meets Hugo (Keean Johnson), he opens up her world view all the more. But Alita isn’t just a normal teenage girl and it soon becomes apparent that whatever she is, she’s a warrior. She has incredible survival instincts and is an expert in an ancient martial art.

This comes in handy when she finds out Dyson is moonlighting as a Hunter-Warrior (bounty hunter) and she gets to help him take down some lowly criminals.

Alas, this puts Alita on everyone’s map and not in a good way as she upsets the order of things, pissing off not only the criminal underworld but also the Hunter-Warrior community. All this runs alongside the national spectacle of Motorball, an all-consuming sport that everyone seems to love. Obviously she’s a natural at that too.

And there’s a helluva a lot more to it than that. The film looks good if you don’t mind suspending your disbelief for two hours. The action is satisfying too but it just doesn’t have much of a soul. When it comes down to it, Alita is the best character in it and I think it’s because of her enthusiasm. Both Mahershala Ali (as gang boss Vector) and Jennifer Connelly (as Dyson’s ex-wife Chiren) are wasted. Waltz seems to phone it in. Ed Skrein‘s shady Hunter-Warrior Zapan is horrible –  and the central teen romance is cringe-worthy AF.

While Alita has every right to the ordinary aspects of life, I could have done without the YA romance. Hugo is as terrible as Zapan and I didn’t care for him at all. But you know, as I type this I realise there’s more to like than dislike so maybe you’ll like it more than I did. It’s not a total disaster after all, just not my cup of tea.

⭐⭐⭐ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

What are you watching?

Maniac

Maniac (2018)

Jonah Hill, Emma Stone, a depressed computer, a series of mind-bending simulations and a seemingly predestined shared destiny – what’s not to love?

Honestly, not much. While everyone seemed to be tooting on about this when it first dropped on Netflix, I had a hard time getting past the first few episodes. But I wanted to give it a fair go, given its cast and I’m so glad I did.

I found it to be thoughtful, beautiful, funny and heartbreaking all at once. Like, honestly so profound in places that I thought my own heart might burst out of my chest and jump across the floor.

I don’t know how well I can describe it but Maniac focuses on Owen (Hill) and Annie (Stone), two quite damaged individuals who find themselves part of a new and potentially life-changing drug trial, run by Dr. Muramoto (Rome Kanda) and his colleague, Dr. Azumi Fujito (Sonoya Mizuno).

Both our protagonists have their own battle ahead. Owen Milgrim lives with severe mental health issues. He is also due to testify on behalf of his brother (Jesse Magnussen) in court, after he commits a felony. Increasingly, Owen disconnects from the world and from his family, struggling with suicidal notions.

Annie Landsberg grieves the death of her younger sister in a car accident and is driven to take extreme action to face what’s become of her life since. And so the two find themselves loosely acquainted, both test subjects in Muramoto’s lab. The tests are surreal and immersive, not to be discussed with the other patients but to be dissected at length after the fact.

When Muramoto drops dead suddenly, seemingly an addict of his own experimental drug (and the very pill the subjects have been taking prior to their simulations), Azumi calls in Dr. James Mantleray (Justin Theroux) to take his place. James it seems was one of the founders of the experiment, which is set to address and then fix all the misery of the world.

You didn’t think it would be that simple though, did you? Well of course it isn’t, as the project is plagued with issues. In fact, the only thing that seems sure in this whole trippy scenario (and all the wonderfully vivid simulations) is that Owen and Annie will find themselves together, their lives somehow entwined. Which isn’t supposed to happen.

The rest is up to you but it’s a Technicolor study of loss and life and love and mental anguish. Of accepting your limitations, of taking a leap of faith – of not being ‘normal’ and doing it all anyway. I adored it and by the last episode I actually felt deflated. Maniac has lit up this dreary week and engaged me fully. I want it back.

Have you seen Maniac? What did you think?

TAU

The Blog Collab is back and ready to rock with a Free For All January. Thanks for bearing with us while we took our Christmas break. Both Jill and I were having trouble getting into the festive spirit and agreed we didn’t want to do Christmas movies this time around so we had a rest instead.

Welcome back!

*Minor Spoilers*

TAU (2018)

The premise here is quite neat. ‘Streetwise’ (read: slutty, unlikely to be missed) people are kidnapped by an amoral scientist and harvested for their brains for a ground-breaking, game-changing AI project. When Alex (Ed Skrein) kidnaps Julia (It Follows’ Maika Monroe), he bites off more than he can chew. This girl values her life and she’ll fight hammer and nail to get it back. Fuck you, Alex, you Nicholas Hoult-looking loser.

With the help of the Artificial Intelligence system that runs his space age home – TAU (voiced by Gary Oldman) – and multiple drones/a massive clunky robot, Alex is able to strike fear into Alex. To a point. As Julia realises her value to Alex she begins to negotiate a deal with him – give her back some of her home comforts and eventual freedom, in exchange for her co-operation. For a while it seems a kind of pseudo-harmony could be possible but Alex is under pressure from his investors and is also a cold fish who doesn’t suffer fools, so the pair soon fall out.

Meanwhile, Julia seems to have found another way. She’s found a chink in TAU’s armor and the more time the AI and the girl spend together, the more she works her way beneath it. TAU, you see, appears to be the victim of an abusive domestic situation and Julia can use that. By convincing TAU he’s human like her, and honing in on his love of music/growing curiosity about the world outside, the more she can get him onside. It’s a game of wits and it’s quite sweet. But will Alex notice this and put paid to Julia’s games before she escapes? Or will he use her and then erase her as he has so many before her?

Well, despite the quite charming narrative, this film is not great honestly. It has such potential and I really enjoyed Julia as a character but it doesn’t have quite the oomph I expected. Maika Monroe is one to watch after It Follows and the gloriously trashy The Guest and she’s definitely the stand out here, I just wish she’d had worthy material to work with.

I’m also glad they made the central relationship about Julia and TAU and not Julia and Alex, who frankly was a wasted character. I get that he’s supposed to be a man with his eyes on the prize but we never get anything from him. He’s so 2D it’s offensive and maybe that’s the point, that the creator of such advanced AI would end up being less human than his pet project.

While we’re here though, should such sophisticated Artificial Intelligence be that easy to manipulate? As far as I can see, Alex has one job and if he can’t even keep his home in order…

All in all, not a disaster but not amazing either. Poor old Netflix seems to be in a rut churning out mediocre Sci-fi originals at the moment and I hope that changes soon. I should have chosen Mary Shelley instead (and will in the coming weeks).

⭐⭐⭐ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

What does my beloved think of this bad boy? Would she save it from itself or prefer to erase all memory of it? You can find out here, as always.

The Predator

The Predator (2018)

*Minor spoilers*

We’re all really here for the alien action, right? Who cares about anything but how pretty The Predator is? Well, lucky for us, he’s back and looking as buff as ever and that’s even before his big evolved brother rocks up. The rest of it is… not great.

Marry me

Let’s start with Casey Bracket (the lovely Olivia Munn), a ballsy scientist with a special investment in space animals. She’s pretty good and more than just a pretty face, thankyouverymuch. Her connection to The Predator is a little flimsy, something about a letter to the president when she was a kid and I couldn’t even work out if she was joking. Anyway, she’s there when the freshly captured Predator busts loose and is lucky when he approaches her butt naked, unarmed form and decides to let her live. Oooh, fishy…

Then there are our ‘heroes’. First up Quinn McKenna (the unbearable Boyd Holbrook) who witnesses the crash landing of the Predator’s space ship. First on the scene and still reeling from the slaughter of his mercenary colleagues, Quinn does what any sensible person would in the same situation. He steels alien hardware (a helmet and wrist cuff) and posts them back to his PO Box in his hometown. Well THAT won’t come back to bite him in the arse will it?

Riding in prison buses with boys

Add to the mix the rest of the gang – and in my opinion the most important part of the movie – and, well it’s a bit hit and miss I’m afraid. When Quinn is detained by the authorities, he meets Nebraska, Coyle, Baxley, Lynch and Nettles (Moonlight’s Trevante Rhodes, Keegan-Michael Key, Thomas Jane, Alfie Allen and Augusto Aguilera respectively) – all bad (ish) men in trouble with the military – and admittedly, probably a good bunch to affiliate yourself with when shit hits the fan.

The Predator is exactly what you’d expect really. It’s a romp, it’s really stupid and it is enjoyable in places if you can suspend your disbelief. The rag tag bunch are fun if a little bit terrible (Nebraska is good but not the greatest stretch for an actor that moved me to tears in Moonlight).

The kids are alright

One of my main problems with it is that it feels like a kids film which doesn’t blend well with the hyper-gore (which I love). The focus around Quinn’s autistic son Rory (Jacob Tremblay) is interesting but gives it an 80’s Flight of the Navigator tone that doesn’t work for me. I want Shane Black on acid, using all the special effects he can in the modern day and some of them are just shocking. I’m quite sure he’s kept them schlocky as a nod back to the 80’s though which might have been a mistake. Also, our super villain Traeger (Sterling K. Brown) needs to shut his mouth. Literally. (Dude looks like a cow chewing cud and it’s really distracting).

My Rating

3/5.

Solo: A Star Wars Story

Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)

Directed by: 
Starring: Alden EhrenreichWoody HarrelsonEmilia ClarkeDonald GloverPhoebe Waller-Bridge

IMDB Synopsis

During an adventure into the criminal underworld, Han Solo meets his future copilot Chewbacca and encounters Lando Calrissian years before joining the Rebellion.

Where: Odeon, Brighton
When: Friday 25th May
Who with: Glynn Bass
Snacks: Deluxe popcorn and drink combo

*Beware spoilers*

I’m starting to think I’m incapable of thinking badly of any of the Star Wars movies (not you original prequels). Every time I get a new SW film, be it spin off or part of the original story line, I can’t help be satisfied.

I really enjoyed Solo but must cop to going in with a little less excitement than normal. I mean, I was into it but not in the same way as I was with Rogue One. The main draw was Donald Glover as Lando but girl, it was all a trip and I loved every minute. Genuinely.

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Solo begins on the streets of Corellia where we meet orphaned Han (Ehrenreich) and his girlfriend Qi’ra (Clarke), two hood rats forced to work the streets for crime matriarch Lady Proxima. Both share the same dream which is to steal a ship and blow this grimy popsicle stand once and for all. Sadly, only one of them escapes and thus begins the further adventures of Han Solo as he does everything in his power to become the best ever pilot and get back to his girl.

Does he? Well, you’ve probably seen the trailer so it might not be a surprise to find out that they do indeed meet three years later, just as Han makes the acquaintance of Beckett (Harrelson) and his feisty droid L3-37 (voiced by the amazing Waller-Bridge). Solo has also just met his life partner Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) and that’s the real love story here. 

Qi’ra has become something of a highly refined Lieutenant, working for Crimson Dawn crime boss Dryden Vos (delicious Paul Bettany) and when Beckett comes clean to Vos about a mission gone wrong, Han proposes another plan to make everything alright again. 

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Will it work? Will Qi’ra and Han (and Chewie) live happily ever after together? And who the hell is Enfys Nest and his/her Mad Max-esque crew of super scavengers?

Only one way to get in the picture!

All in all though I think this is a strong addition to the SW canon, I found it less scattered and messy than The Last Jedi (which I also loved) – and I don’t think you can fault Ehrenreich for his performance at any point, he brings his own charisma to the proceedings but also nails a young Harrison Ford perfectly.

Highlights are (but of course), Lando and L3 who bring a light-hearted sass to the table. L3 is a feminist icon if we’re honest and a welcome one,  joining the ranks with a whole bevy of SW female badasses. Where’s her fucking spin-off?

My Rating

4.5/5.

Pacific Rim Uprising

Pacific Rim: Uprising (2018)

Directed by: Steven S. DeKnight
Starring: John BoyegaScott EastwoodCailee SpaenyCharlie DayTian Jing

IMDB Synopsis

Jake Pentecost, son of Stacker Pentecost, reunites with Mako Mori to lead a new generation of Jaeger pilots, including rival Lambert and 15-year-old hacker Amara, against a new Kaiju threat.

*Minor spoilers*

I want to add a disclaimer to this review before I start: I abhor movie snobbery. People should watch what makes them happy, be it Adam Sandler movies or dogme 95. Who cares, right? Life’s too short for guilty pleasures and I strongly believe we should all be loud-mouthed enthusiasts. So when it comes to blockbuster season, I am all in.

I live to see giant robots/apes/aliens smashing the shit out of one another while the poor city around them crumbles to the ground. I love action heroes and explosions, prehistoric sharks, Wookies and above all, spectacle. It doesn’t always work and I don’t always leave the theater satisfied but I’m still down for whatever because that’s what film is about: Escapism. Joy. Magic (in no particular order).

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Pacific Rim (2013) was a balls out sci-fi adventure romp directed by Guillermo del Toro, a high octane alien ride of epic proportion starring Idris Elba as Stacker Pentecost, the hero of the hour and defender of the universe. And although I realised during the viewing of its sequel that I couldn’t remember a damn thing about it (apart from how Elba filled his uniform), the first movie was HUGE and beloved by fans around the globe. 

Uprising follows Jake Pentecost (Boyega), son of Stacker and all-round babe ten years after the first movie. Oh to keep it that family, eh? (sorry Mum).

Jake isn’t as disciplined as his Kaiju war hero father and is reluctant at times to be associated due to the fact that he doesn’t stack up that favourably in comparison. *Spoiler* Pops sacrificed himself for the good of humankind remember? And Jake’s more irresponsible than that.

When he gets picked up by the feds for nefarious horseplay, he’s given an ultimatum by PPDC General Secretary Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchiwho is also Jake’s adoptive sister: join the Jaeger program as a cadet trainer or face prison. Along the way he picks up Jaegar enthusiast Amara (Spaeny), a scrap yard baby who has single-handedly built her own Jaegar from scratch. Amara is recruited as a cadet for the program too because of course she is.

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Things kick off quickly as the Kaiju return to fuck up Earth and the responsibility of saving the world is once more placed in the hands of a Pentecost. Is Jake up to the task? With the help of his new recruits and old buddy Nate Lambert (Eastwood) you could say he’ll at least give it his best shot.

In other news, Charlie Day’s high-energy Doctor Newton Geiszler is up to his own japes while super-bitch Liwen Shao (Jing) heads Shao Corporation’s drone program, which threatens to overshadow everything the Jaeger program has been working toward. For the good of mankind, can’t they all just get along? Hmmmmm?

This sequel is not great, nor will it particularly stick in the mind. It is what it is in the moment, it’s fun and larger than life. The robot work is excellent and frankly, at least this isn’t as soulless as some of the Transformer movies.

It’s clever to have cast Boyega in the lead, he’s gorgeous, funny and a good actor, just like his father (Stacker) but he’s also very current and off the back of his Star Wars success, probably the best man for the job. Although he doesn’t have a lot of really sophisticated dialogue to work with here, he seems to be having fun and that my friends is half the battle. The other half is the Kaiju themselves obvi.

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I think my forgetfulness relating to the original PR has harmed my enjoyment of Newt’s story line as I didn’t even remember Charlie Day was in it. He’s definitely and understandably the comic relief and he does an okay job. He puts me in mind of a younger Bobcat Goldthwaite but not as accomplised.

Clint Eastwood’s son Scott doesn’t fair well either, though he is uncannily like his father in certain lights. I did also like the females in this movie – it’s good to see equal opportunity on the battlefield and in the laboratories. I thought Tian Jing was good as not-all-bad corporate witch Liwen Shao particularly.

All in all I’m not mad I saw this on the big screen if only to get my Boyega on and to soak up the scale of everything.

My Rating

2.5/5.

Ready Player One

Ready Player One (2018)

Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Tye SheridanOlivia CookeBen MendelsohnLena WaitheT.J. MillerMark RylanceSimon Pegg

IMDB Synopsis

When the creator of a virtual reality world called the OASIS dies, he releases a video in which he challenges all OASIS users to find his Easter Egg, which will give the finder his fortune.

*Minor spoilers*

Oh my Lord. It’s always disconcerting when you go into a movie whispering the mantra, “Please be good. Please be good.” To say I went into the theater with high expectations would be an understatement, especially since I loved the book and have pressed it into the sweaty hand of many a friend.

Luckily for me, the adaptation was handed to the perfect director for the project and, with Ernest Cline on-board for screenwriting duties, I was left more than impressed. At one point I nearly lost my shit, it was so perfect and so relevant to my personal interests.

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Spielberg has the nostalgia thing down pat at the best of times but with the OASIS at his fingertips, he has the freedom to let loose on the popular culture references. There’s no limit to what he can do and it’s so multi-layered, so awe-inspiring I defy anyone not to come away with a new respect for what special effects can do.

I’m wary of giving too much of the game away in this review but what I can say is that, through Wade Watts and his avatar Parzival (Sheridan), we learn all about the OASIS and what it really means to the inhabitants of a now desolate world in 2045. While things IRL aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, OASIS’ creator James Halliday has just passed away, leaving a legacy that has the potential to change Wade and his friends’ lives forever.

Wade’s crew is small but perfectly formed and grows stronger still when they team up with Parzival’s crush, the elusive Art3mis (Cooke). But with super villain Sorrento (Mendelsohn) hot on their tail and determined to solve Halliday’s riddles and win control of OASIS for himself, they’re really up against it.

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Man, I have a couple of favourite scenes that I just want to gush about but I can’t, let’s just say as a classic horror fan, I was moved almost to tears by one extended segment and if you’ve seen RPO you’ll know which one I mean.

While the romantic aspect of the story I could take or leave, everything else about it was appealing and exactly what I wanted from this adaptation. Fans of the book might notice a few differences but there’s nothing too jarring and the visual references pad it out perfectly.

I hope you enjoy it too.

My Rating

5/5.